This year I probably listened to more NEW music than I have in years. The purpose was to be intentional and open. I think I still kept it pretty ethereal and other-worldly. Music has become less of an analytical, theoretical experience. I’m on a feeling level now.
Most of the albums I’ll be talking about with an exception of a few are a bit more under the radar. So if there are other folks that have made the best of lists I probably like them too, but these are some I really believe in. Though if you’re hoping for Vampire Weekend or Yeezus, go home. :)
Perhaps in this time in my life drones are doing that for me. Ambient music/drones are like abstract imagery. Tim Hecker’s Virgins at times becomes a work of surrealism; I am in a space he created and walking through to see what’s there. The use of live classical musicians playing and then turning that into lush, moody, trance-like compositions is a testament to his abilities as a composer and sound artist. Though I know that he sees his music as secular, the spiritual realm is seeping out of it. Beyond that, the mere album art elicits a provocative social commentary.
Dawn of Midi’s Dysnomia provides a similar experience solely relying on tireless repetition, odd time meters and virtuosic playing. I don’t know how many times I started counting off time signatures and by the time I mastered one they had already swept through two others. The album is seamless and there are times in which each member takes the baton to forecast another movement. Everything will wander into chaos and at the moment of climax, it all falls into place. But you can never be comfortable because they only stay there for a short time.
Actress is an experimental electronic musician from the UK who is sparse, careful and again, not afraid of repetition (seeing the trend). The opening track Voodoo Posse Illusion is absolutely gritty, lo-fi and hypnotic.
Hailing from the same island, Jon Hopkins put out one of my favorite albums of the year and totally influenced the score I wrote for RAWdance. His ability to design offbeat drums with pristine synthesis amazes me. His mixes sound good on EVERYTHING which really pisses me off. Besides all of the studio mastery, this album breathes and has emotion that a great deal of electronic music lacks, being either too heady or too much brostep!
William Basinski was my best discovery of 2012. He absolutely changed my idea of writing music. He composes his music using tape loops which do just that: loop over and over again. His music is like sitting and reciting psalms or mantras repeatedly with devotion. Each time you do it something new is experienced though you’re listening to the same thing. This year he released Nocturnes, an older tape loop of him playing piano that he then recorded, made a tape loop and treated. You will find yourself sad and disturbed and then joyously surprised. His music is meditation music if there is such a thing. Either way, the work has sage-like quality.
I first heard Nedelle Torrisi on The Curtains album Calamity on my favorite cut off that album World’s Most Dangerous Woman. There was something earnest about her voice that I loved. Then I heard her on Cryptacize and I don’t know if it was the songwriting or what but I wasn’t into it all. Then I heard her sing on my friend Chris Schlarb’s album Psychic Temple II and I was like YES! So she dropped a self titled album shortly thereafter and I fell in love with pop music again. Her album reminded me of drives to New Jersey listening to Gloria Estefan without the cliche. This is not a throwback album as there are so many things that are fresh and engaging, particularly the vocals and arrangements. I really love this album.
Let me tell you something about Chris Schlarb. Hardest working man in show business. Does not stop. Can’t stop won’t stop. On top of that, my man does whatever he wants. He is not looking for financial gain, but pure art and strives to stay true to that. Psychic Temple II is his means of pursuing this ideal - musical freedom. Check the cover of Steppin’ Out!!!!
Arcade Fire - Watch the Google version of the Reflektor video. I’m Haitian. Nuff said.
Grey Reverend - A Black dude playing folk! No I’m not taking this at face value, but there aren’t much of us doing it which reminded me how much I DO like folk music. There’s nothing pretentious about this album. Just good, honest songwriting. Makes me want to release guitar based tunes in 2014.
Best Albums of 2013 (in no particular order)
Nedelle Torrisi - s/t
Actress - Silver Cloud EP
Dawn of Midi - Dysnomia
Tim Hecker - Virginal
Arcade Fire - Reflector
Jon Hopkins - Immunity
William Basinski - Nocturnes
Chris Schlarb - Psychic Temple II
Grey Reverend - A Hero’s Lie
Atoms For Peace - Amok
Sons of the Morning -Speak Soon, Vol. 1
Best Songs of 2013
Nedelle - Can’t Wait
Actress - Voodoo Posse Chronic Illusion
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Jon Hopkins - Breathe This Air
Jim O’Rourke - Low Bow
Gajah and Mute Speaker - Enough is Enough
Atoms for Peace - Ingenue
Older music resurrected or discovered:
Best things I did this year
Camping with my family
Bike rides with my daughter
Santa Barbara with Rhea
Wrote music for a full length doc and a 45 minute dance performance
Continued freelance and sound design work
Collaboration with Sung Kim
Joined a bootcamp
Regular meditation practice
Realizing I’m not the center of the universe (!!)
I have no resolutions this year. I just want to keep trying to be a better person and love people the best that I can...and read more novels. Happy New Year! xo